July 31, 2016

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I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life. – Psalm 119:93

It’s been a while. A while since I’ve posted something substantial as far as brain droppings go. A while since I even posted some kind of general update to at least prove that I still exist on this plane of mortality. Did’ja miss me? I’m sure there’s at least a couple of you that did. Hi, Mom.

As it stands, I wish I had something positive to report. Even something as innocuous as “Doing fine, life is good, totally blessed,” and other similar posts I generally gloss over in my social media feed. Then again, even if I posted something like that and meant it, I’d have friends and acquaintances calling me to see if I’m feeling okay.

It’s not easy being the negative charge on the proverbial battery of life.

Boy howdy has 2016 been a trying year. I believe I began wishing for some kind of reset button around May or so. Here we are, the tail end of July, in the middle of the wicked season that is Summer, and there were two events in the past couple of months that have made me want to count this year as a wash. Just to give you an idea of what’s been happening to keep me from wanting to keep up with the content on this blog o’ mine:

My final grandmother passed away at the beginning of June. She was a week or so away from her 90th birthday. She passed away in her sleep; but it was the months leading up to her passing that took the most out of me and my family. It was tough, watching her fade away like she did. I’m still mourning her loss. I suppose I will for a while.

The second thing that hit me pretty hard this summer was something that I really did not see coming at all. Which is why, three weeks after it happened, I–and sever others as well–amĀ  still feeling the whiplash. I can’t really get into the details at the moment; I’m still processing things, and I’d like to get as much information as possible to make a fair assessment of the situation. Let’s just say that, as of today many of us are finding ourselves without a church to call home. Like I said, I’ll probably go into more detail at a later post, I just want to be able to do so in a way that’s gracious and not falling into the realm of sensationalist muck-raking. Because we’re getting enough of that with this current election period, amirite?

Until next time, I hope to shake off the dark fog I’ve been in for the past few months to get back to posting my brain droppings, reviews and other fun stuff. It’s a struggle, buy by the grace of God I go. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Music Review: UNDERNEATH THE GUN – The Awakening

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Music Review: UNDERNEATH THE GUN - The Awakening

UNDERNEATH THE GUN
The Awakening
This City Is Burning
2006

Underneath The Gun was one of those metalcore bands that came and went without much fanfare. Well, not enough for me to notice on the interwebs. Not much can be gleaned about them, with about the only information that I could find being that they were from California, and they released an EP and two full-lengths before calling it quits. I came across the object of this review online, and thought I would give it a shot.

As a first-effort full-length recording, The Awakening is a perfect example of the kind of mediocre, serviceable-yet-generic deathcore that hit around the time of the so-called “New Wave Of American Heavy Metal” emergence. Basically, this is a bunch of decent death metal riffs and scatter-shot blastbeats to make this “br00tal”, with your predictable breakdowns, some gang vocals hither and yon, “solos” that consist of squelches and lazy sweep-picking rather than actual talent, and vocals that go from squeely to growly to the dreaded Piggy Style that I find a major turn-off with this style of “metal”.

I just realized, reading that last paragraph over, that I may have hit my limit of “sarcastic quotation marks” for this review. That last bit notwithstanding.

Admittedly, there are some sparks of good ideas here and there that could have resulted in something better had it been worked on a bit longer. However, in the end, I have to point out that partway through listening to The Awakening I began checking the media player to see how much longer I had to listen, which is not a good sign. Overall, for those of you young’uns who like their metal mindlessly br00tal for br00ta1ity’s sake, then here you go. As for me, there are far better examples of talented deathcore and NWOAHM bands out there. Pass.

Music Review: AUNT BETTYS – Aunt Bettys

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Music Review: AUNT BETTYS - Aunt Bettys

AUNT BETTYS
Aunt Bettys
EastWest Records
1996

Back in 1993, musician / artist Michael Knott, the mastermind behind the highly influential new wave turned alt. rock band L. S. Underground, as well as being a versatile musical renaissance man with his solo albums and various other band projects, created a “general market rock back” called Aunt Bettys Ford. I engage the quotes there, because it was taken from Mike Knott’s Wikipedia entry, and that was used to describe the sound of the band. Mind you, back in the early- to mid-1990s, radio was dominated by alternative music, which made it ubiquitously mainstream, which then lead to the most ironic genre label of the time with “mainstream alternative”. It was a wacky time to be alive, let me tell you.

Anyway, after a bit of a publicized label bidding war which saw the Electra label winning, the self-titled debut release was put out on Electra imprint EastWest Records in 1996 to high critical acclaim…but since it wasn’t promoted properly, it kind of went the way of a wet fart while walking down the street: hardly anyone noticed, and it disappeared fast enough for anyone to care. Which is a pity, as this release really is a hidden gem amongst the glut of modern rock that was being foisted upon our earholes back then.

This might come as a surprise to those who only know me as the die-hard \,,/METAL\,,/head, but I know good music when I hear it, and for me to say that I think that Aunt Bettys Ford is a good, solid collection of rock in the alternative vein shouldn’t be very shocking.

If there’s one thing Michael Knott knows how to do, it’s writing a good guitar-driven rock tune with very smart lyrics and catchy hooks, and imbuing the songs with a unique personality. The album starts off solid with the track “Jesus”, which blends together the use of acoustic and electric guitars rather well, and snags us with the hookiest hook and keeps us through most of the album. Nearly every song on here is a good one, from the giggle-inducing “Mother Trucker”, to the redux of Knott’s previous solo tune “Rocket And A Bomb”, to the rollicking closer “Rock And Roll” (not a Led Zepplin cover, in case you’re wondering). There’s maybe two songs that I wasn’t too impressed with; “Jane”, which wasn’t bad, but just didn’t do it for me, and “Double” which is a WGWAG cut with some interesting percussion touches.

Overall, though, Aunt Bettys is a good solid rock n’ roll album from one of the more criminally underrated artists in music, Christian, mainstream or otherwise. Recommended.

Music Review: ANCIENT PROPHECY – Pounded By Our Sins

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Music Review: ANCIENT PROPHECY - Pounded By Our Sins

ANCIENT PROPHECY
Pounded By Our Sins
Independent
2015

Hailing from Germany, Ancient Prophecy plays a style of metal that is an interesting hybrid of power metal and traditional heavy metal that blends together into something only the Germans can seem to pull off. After releasing a couple of demos, they released their first full-length release, Pounded By Our Sins digitally in 2015.

I once read a review of Pounded By Our Sins on another review site, describing the music as “melodic thrash”. That’s what led me to seek out and purchase this album in the first place. And after listening to this, I have to counter that “melodic thrash” with NO. This isn’t even Thrash Metal’s first cousin, Speed Metal. The music on Pounded By Our Sins is best described as Power Metal with a blend of Heavy Metal. I can maybe understand someone who’s not familiar with thrash to mistake this for thrash, what with the use of blastbeats and faster-than-usual guitar riffing. But make no mistake, this is epic and powerful HEAVY METAL we’re dealing with.

Kicking off with the anthem “Metal Is Still Alive”–complete with an opening chant, big chorus sing-alongs, all set to epic riffs and soaring and powerful female vocals intertwined with a bit of growly male vocals. This is followed by two more mid-paced and decent cuts, “New Chapter” and “True Trinity”, which follow the same pacing as the opener.

However, it’s when we get to the fourth cut on the album, “Pounded”, is when the quality of the album goes from good to really good. From here on to the end of the album, we’re bombarded with some fantastic guitar riffing, some excellent rhythm work, and very powerful vocals provided by Jaqueline Kunz, sounding as good as fellow German metal crooner Doro Pesch. The production on the entire thing is fantastic, bringing out the quality of the metal contained therein.

Overall, Pounded By Our Sins is a quality independent release of some good, solid and heavy \,,/METAL\,,/ that isn’t just the usual shiny, happy melodic stuff. Recommended.

Music Review: ACELDAMA – Melquisedec

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Music Review: ACELDAMA - Melquisedec

ACELDAMA
Melquisedec
Eirene Records
2010

Aceldama is a death metal band from Costa Rica that has been together since 2005. Their name itself is Aramaic for “field of blood”, and refers to the place in Jerusalem that’s traditionally associated with where the Apostle Judas hung himself following his betrayal of Jesus. Brutal. Following a demo and and EP, Melquisedec is their first full-length that was released in 2010. One has to ask, is the music on Melquisedec befitting a name such as this? In a word, “yep”.

After a Spanish-language audio clip, the album opens with “Destruccion Para Este Mundo”, a decent and straight-forward old school death metal cut. The entire album follows in this old school style, with some good variation to keep things interesting. The guitars have an interesting crunch tone to them, and there are some rather good rhythm structures and base lines throughout the songs. The vocals are mostly of the standard Death Metal growl variety, with some blackened vocals added for spiciness and taste. The production is decent; a bit raw, but it seems to work in the music’s favor rather than being a hindrance. And really, who doesn’t like their death metal a bit raw and gritty?

Overall, Melquisedec is a good solid collection of old school death metal with some personality. Very much worth checking out.

Movie Review: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

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ghostbusters2016Columbia Pictures
2016
PG-13

“Okay, room full of nightmares.”

Paranormal researcher Abby Yates and physicist Erin Gilbert are trying to prove that ghosts exist in modern society. When strange apparitions appear in Manhattan, Gilbert and Yates turn to engineer Jullian Holtzmann for help. Also joining the team is Patty Tolan, a lifelong New Yorker who knows the city inside and out. Armed with proton packs and plenty of attitude, the four women prepare for an epic battle as more than 1,000 mischievous ghouls descend on Times Square.

Okay, internets. Are we done, then? Are we finished with all the vitriol, the whining, the knee-jerk reactionary hyperbole? You should be by now, seeing as how it’s been a week since the reboot of the Ghostbusters film finally came out.

Never since that great debate of the proper pronunciation of .GIF have I witnessed such a ballistic split in online nerd-dom over something so now-commonplace as a movie reboot. I don’t think I really have to go into discussing how ridiculous all the objections were; sufficed to say, I ignored the majority of them, opting to watch the movie with some cautious optimism. And my final verdict is…

Ghostbusters 2016 is decent. That’s right: Decent. And that’s not me trying to be neutral to avoid controversy. Believe me, if it would have sucked, I would have said as much, followed by the explanation of why my assessment was as such. I’m afraid anyone reading this expecting a delicious rant, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I found this Ghostbusters to be entertainingly decent.

One of my biggest concerns going in was the very real possibility that this was going to be the “Girly Ghostbusters”. You know, one of those arbitrary straight remakes with female leads instead, that completely misses the point. Instead, while there be some parallels to the original, this one manages to tell its own story and fleshes this world out decently, and develops the characters into their own identities, and not mere carbon copies of the classic lineup. The effects were very good, with the ghost effects being some of the best parts of this. And when it found its own footing, both the humor and the horror elements gelled together well.

That said…did you catch that part, there, where I said “when it found its footing”? That’s because it took about 20 minutes or so for me to warm up to the characters and the humor. This is not because I don’t like the actors–I’m very much not familiar with their individual bodies of work to form an opinion–but because the first part seemed to rely heavily on juvenile gross-out humor, including a queef joke. And because of this review, I finally had to use Google to look up the proper spelling of the word “queef”. Thank you, movie.

I believe the weakest part of the movie was the villain. He was no Gozer. He was no Vigo the Carpathian. He wasn’t even on the level as the guy trying to get Vigo into our world, Doctor Jarosz. I would qualify this movie’s antagonist as more a baddie-of-the-week on an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I also found the nigh-unavoidable cameos from the original movie border on pandering…with the exception of Slimer. His bit was awesome.

Overall, despite its flaws, despite it being unnecessary, and despite the hordes of whiny fanboys raging against its very existence before there was even a script, Ghostbusters circa 2016 is a decently good movie. It was entertaining, and that’s all it is. The original two movies are in no danger of being usurped by this updated take on the paranormal clean-up crew, and I really don’t think I’ll be rewatching this, or buying the DVD when it’s released, but for a summer action horror/comedy hybrid, you’re not going to be demanding your money and/or childhood back once you get through the end credits.

(check out the Will Code For Beer Ghostbusters 2016 Special pubcast)

Music Review: CRIMSON MOONLIGHT – Divine Darkness

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Music Review: CRIMSON MOONLIGHT - Divine Darkness

CRIMSON MOONLIGHT
Divine Darkness
Endtime Productions
2016

The third full-length release from Swedish black metal mainstays Crimson Moonlight comes nearly a decade after the last full-length release. Which is a long time to wait for something as tingle-educing as the kind of quality \,,/METAL\,,/ these guys make. I mean, sure there was an EP and a single released in between then, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a release from Crimson Moonlight is an event. But, I digress.

From the opening face-melting blast-beats and thrashy death of “The Dogma Of Chalcedon”, Divine Darkness proves that the wait was well worth the end result. This is some high-quality progressive black metal, heavy and extreme, dark and fiery, resulting in a big dopey grin on my face for the entire time this played. Not once did the music stagnate, as there were touches of musical shifts to keep things fresh and interesting: acoustic instruments, melodic touches, some noticeable industrial effects on the vocals, some doom metal moments, and one cut (“Voistinu Voskrese”) which is a straight-forward dirge from beginning to end. The production is top-notch, and the flow is outstanding.

Overall, Divine Darkness cuts out any kind of pretense and gets right to the point, grabbing you by the jugular and not letting go until you’re good and tenderized. Highly Recommended.

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